The windshield wipers swiped rhythmically back and forth as I talked with my three-year old, Josiah, on the way to church.
The topic was prayer. “I think he might actually understand me,” I thought as I glanced at his face in the rear view mirror.
I turned on my blinker to take the exit and tested my theory: “Josiah, why does God answer our prayers?”
“Well,” he paused. “When we always go under bridges, the rain doesn’t come on us. It gets stopped.”
I had to laugh. Isn’t this how spiritual conversations can go with our kids sometimes? We think they’re starting to understand only to realize that their minds are somewhere else or they don’t quite get it.
Is it really worth trying to explain the Bible to two-year olds? Can’t we just leave it to pastors and Sunday School teachers to explain theology to our kids?
As parents who love Jesus, our greatest goal should be to disciple our children to love and obey God. One of the best opportunities we have to achieve that is through our daily conversations. We demonstrate what we really believe and value through what we say, especially in the everyday moments.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 describes how we as parents are to treat God’s Word in our homes: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise…”
Sitting, walking, lying down, and waking up are definitely normal parts of our days—and that’s how God wants our conversations about Him to be. “Talking about God” doesn’t mean we have to quote the Bible or preach at our children. It merely means bringing God’s perspective, truth, and hope into everyday conversations. And remember, conversations are two-way—not lectures.
“Yes!” my heart says. “I want talking with my kids about God to be normal!” So, how do we start these conversations? How do we find opportunities to talk about God with our kids? These are a few things I am still learning:
1. Be thinking about God and His Word.
As the verses in Deuteronomy 6 mentioned, God’s commandments must first be on our hearts. We talk about what we think about. No football fan has to be bribed to talk about his or her team. No girl who is engaged struggles to bring up her fiancé in conversation. If you’re not talking about God with your children, ask yourself how much you are thinking about Him.
The starting place in talking about God with our children must be making His Word our primary focus. This can look like reading your Bible in a nice easy chair with your journal and a cup of coffee, but it can also look like singing while doing the dishes, putting a verse card on your dashboard to think about at stop lights, or listening to a few chapters of the Bible while in the shower. Don’t let your idea of what a “quiet time” looks like keep you from worshiping God. As has been said, “The most important thing I do today is worship Jesus.”
2. Have regular times planned to talk with your children about God.
We all make habits of the things that are most important to us. Having a planned “Bible time” has been the best way for us to be sure that we are regularly talking about God with our kids. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Just before bedtime we read several verses from the Bible, a story from a Bible storybook, and pray together. Every family’s schedule is different, so it may be easiest for you to plan a time in the mornings, over dinnertime, certain evenings a week, or some other time.
If you are just starting to read the Bible as a family, don’t give up if your kids struggle! We first started our family Bible time when Josiah was about 18 months old. He squirmed quite a bit and didn’t always pay attention, but now at 3 1/2, he has learned to listen and even ask questions. Remember, it’s not about checking a box that you had family devotions. Even if you are only able to read a few verses, the goal is to have conversations with your children about who God is, what He has done, and how He wants us to respond to Him.
The Bible is the best lens by which to introduce your children to important and difficult subjects. We read straight through the Gospels with our sons last year and were able to talk about concepts like forgiveness, repentance, true love, treasuring God’s Word, hypocrisy, humility, and friendship, but also difficult topics like adultery, divorce, and murder. We recently read the story of Joseph and discussed lying, hate, jealousy, injustice, responsibility, and forgiveness. It is these conversations during our Bible time that often provide a context for talking about spiritual things the rest of the day.
3. Use everyday moments to initiate conversations about God.
Our days are filled with little moments that we can use to disciple our children. “What kind of day did God make for us?” is a regular question in our home. When we have sibling issues or disobedience we try to use those as opportunities to remind ourselves what God says about love, kindness, and obedience.
“Normal” moments matter. As I mentioned before, not every conversation needs to be serious or about God, but there are many opportunities throughout the normal activities of life to remind them of God’s love and ways. Consider using your car time as a time to ask questions, explain the words to a song, or tell a Bible story. Linger a few minutes with each child before bedtime several times a week and ask them a few questions. Here are some ideas:
“What are some of the good gifts God gave us today?”
“Is there anything you need to confess to God?”
“Who can we pray for tonight?”
And when you feel like these little moments are inconsequential, remember that your children are listening to what you say and using it as a grid from which to interpret their worlds. I’ll never forget the time when I was a young girl that my mom’s friend heard a siren and stopped to pray for whoever might need help. Recently I caught Josiah smiling at his baby brother and saying, “I’m so glad God put you in our family,” something we have told each of our boys. As parents, we don’t know which conversations will really stick with our children, but we can be sure they are listening and observing.
4. Allow daily challenges to bring up conversations about God.
Instead of seeing challenges or difficult conversations as disruptions, we can see them as key opportunities to talk with our children about Jesus. I constantly need growth in this area! In discipline opportunities, we can remind our children of God’s perfection, our sin, and our need to ask His forgiveness. When we, or someone we know, are going through pain or grief, we can share about heaven and how one day there will be no more suffering because there will be no more sin. When our kids are struggling to do what is right, we can encourage them that Jesus is praying for us right now and we can ask Him for help to obey Him.
Even our own shortcomings are opportunities to share the Gospel with our children. When we have wrong responses, we have the opportunity to model repentance by praying and asking God’s forgiveness in front of them. Redeem the challenges you face today as opportunities that God has hand-crafted for you to talk about Him with your children.
Parenting is made up of thousands of conversations. Whether you have read the Bible your whole life or just gave your life to Jesus yesterday, today is the best day to start talking with your children about God. No parent says everything right or knows the answer to every question. No child is always interested or understands everything the first time. And when we realize that our children are thinking about rain falling on bridges instead of our discussion on prayer, we must not give up. As we talk about God with our children, we turn our own hearts toward Him and He gives us wisdom and grace to speak words that point our children to Him.